Sony came out swinging at IFA 2014 this week with new wearables, including one chock full of innovations like HD voice. Given the company's issues in consumer electronics of recent times, it is nice to see Sony come out swinging.
New additions to Sony's SmartWear "Experience Range" this week include the Sony SmartBand Talk (SWR30) and SmartWatch 3. The two talk to Lifelog, an android app that "captures and tells your story," recording information on how active you are, where you went, and how you got there. Other features include the ability to review the pictures you took, music you listened to and how you were communicating that day. You can also "Life Bookmark" significant moments you want to save in detail.
Even before we get into hardware, I like the tying of the app into a bigger picture. With the Lifelog concept, you keep track of physical, social, and entertainment activities, so it's not just a one-trick pony of an activity device. It will appeal to the always-on/gotta-Tweet it now (@Evankirstel, @Jeffpulver hello) set that appreciates keeping track of statistics and reviews them for insight.
Notifications appear to include SMS text, Facebook (News - Alert), email and calendar, with the ability to vibrate with an inbound message. There's also an alarm clock function for wake ups.
Sony is being smart because it is opening up APIs for third-party to write apps and hasn't tied the wearable exclusively to its own phone hardware. I believe Samsung did a great disservice by pairing its wearable technology with specific phones, rather than encouraging anyone with any Android (News - Alert) phone model to buy a smartwatch and pair it. Samsung is also pushing its device OS, Tizen, rather than sticking with Android Wear and a larger ecosystem of developers.
SmartBank Talk may be on my short list for Christmas. It has a built-in microphone and speaker, support for HD voice, a curved always-on 1.4 inch e-paper display, built in accelerometer and altimeter sensors—just the thing I want when walking trade show floors to discover how many miles I've trekked—and its waterproofed to IP 68 standards. So it is protected against dust and good for swimming in the pool (up to 1.5 meters in depth) as well.
Launch colors are black and white, with "extra vibrant" colors coming later in the year. I suppose this begs the question of if/how you handle multiple SmartBand, but I suspect Sony already has this covered for the fashion conscious who purchase multiple devices so they can be color coordinated. More budget minded individuals will simply swap wrist straps of different colors.
As noted before, SmartBand Talk supports HD voice. It also incorporates Voice Control1 technology to enable a user to assign sounds to life bookmarks and use voice to carry out specific smartphone operations.
This brings us to battery life. A charge will take it up to 3 days or up to 1 hour of talk time, which sounds like it might be sufficient for a lot of apps. I'd love to try out SmartBand Talk on a trade show floor or restaurant environment to see how it handles background noise. A single microphone rather than multiple microphones and noise cancellation might be a vulnerability for this particular device.
Gadget fans may pass over SmartWear 3 for a fuller Android Wear experience with Sony's newly announced SmartWatch 3. The SmartWatch 3 has a 320 x 320 color display with a quad processor ARM (News - Alert), 512 MB and 4 GB of storage—some serious horsepower that supports voice, touch and gesture input.
On the other hand, SmartWatch 3 is likely to be much more expensive than a SmartBand Talk. Sony didn't discuss suggested retail pricing in their flurry of press releases. I'm not sure if I need the weight or expense of a SmartWatch 3 on my wrist, but I'm starting to make up a list of reasons why I need a SmartBand Talk.
Edited by Maurice Nagle
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